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07 Jun 2024

How does sustainability play a role in the manufacture of products placed on the market and what are the latest legal requirements?

London Tech Week blog by Assent

‘Product sustainability’ is a phrase that is often seen, but what is it and what does it mean for those companies and organisations that place goods and equipment on the European market?

To be sustainable, a product needs to be designed in such a way so that its impact on the environment is minimised throughout all the stages of its lifecycle. This will cover the raw materials that are used to manufacture the products; the ways in which the manufacturing process is undertaken both minimising and conserving energy; the ways in which the product is distributed to the markets; the ways in which the product is used and the resources it consumes, such as energy and water; right through to the disposal stage when it might be recycled or dismantled in a way that valuable materials can be recovered and reintroduced back to the initial manufacturing stage as part of a circular economy.

The European Commission has endeavoured to promote a circular, more sustainable economy since the publication of its Green Deal in December 2019 that, in turn, led to the release of the Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP) in March 2020 and the proposals for a new sustainable products framework in March 2022.

The (what is now known as) Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation or ‘ESPR’ for short will soon be published in the EU’s Official Journal after a text has been agreed between the European Parliament and the Council in the past few weeks.  This new Regulation will introduce new requirements about product durability, reusability, upgradability, and reparability.  It will bring in new rules on the presence of any substances that might prevent circularity, together with new rules on energy and resource efficiency; recycled content, remanufacturing, and recycling; carbon and environmental footprints; and, lastly, information requirements for the end-users of products through the provision of a Digital Product Passport or DPP. 

We have already been given a preview of the sort of information that might feature in a DPP through the requirements set out in the new Batteries Regulation that was published in July last year and contains a whole host of new data points that companies will need to provide by the beginning of 2027.

But a truly sustainable product also needs to be manufactured, distributed, and sold in a manner that,  in addition to environmental sustainability, also takes account of the social impacts. The impacts that manufacturers have on the people they employ or the risks associated with workers in their supply chains, such as forced labour, will be addressed in a new EU Regulation that bans products from the EU market that have been manufactured using forced labour (Forced Labour Regulation). Information on environmental and social product sustainability can also be made available to potential investors so that decisions can be made about the sustainability performance of the company placing any particular product on the market.

To this end, the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) was agreed in 2022 and entered into force in January last year. This Directive modernises the ways in which companies will have to report on social and environmental impacts, risks and opportunities and will give investors and other stakeholders access to the information they need to assess the ESG credentials of a company. The new rules will require large public companies to report on activities covering this current fiscal year in 2025, with large private companies and public SME companies following a couple of years later.

So, the big question is “how can companies gather all the data that they will need to fulfill these new obligations?”

This is where Assent can help. Assent is a world leading supply chain sustainability management solution for the most responsible complex manufacturers. Assent’s solution can dig deep into a company’s supply chains, mapping its suppliers and parts down to a level where those companies can obtain and monitor information that helps them become both smarter and grow better.

For more information or to book a demonstration of our platform, contact us through our website – www.assent.com.

Author: Steven Andrews, Regulatory & Sustainability Expert, Product Sustainability, Assent

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